'Old Blush', introduced to European growers circa 1752.
Roger Mann makes the observation that a rose very similar to 'Old Blush' is depicted in Chinese paintings from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1169 A.D.). The rose we grow as 'Old Blush' may in fact be that same variety, or certainly something closely related. The origin of this hybrid is a marvellous mystery that we will never likely unravel, and we can only speculate what series of events led to the creation of one of the worlds oldest repeat blooming roses.
While this rose is often referred to as one of the "Four Stud Chinas", there were in fact other China roses extant in those early times. 'Old Blush' is one of the first though, brought to Europe from the Occident during the Tea Trade. It is this rose that is considered to be the single most influential hybrid (yes, it is a hybrid and not a species) in the creation of our modern repeat blooming rose. Our modern garden roses have inherited their repeat bloom genes from this and likely other China hybrids. An interesting side note: some hybridizers are still using 'Old Blush' in their work to this day, including Ralph Moore. Two of his Modern Miniatures are a direct result of using this rose as a parent: 'Mr. Bluebird' and 'Pink Poodle'.
As for care and culture, 'Old Blush' will thrive under average conditions and general good care. It is a very consistent repeat bloomer and is quite resistant to foliar diseases. It can be considered quite hardy to at least zone 6, but will appreciate some protection in colder climates. China roses as a rule resent hard pruning, so remove only dead and damaged wood and shape the shrub to a pleasing shape as necessary. If you prune it like a modern Hybrid Tea, it will be inclined to sulk and its performance will suffer. If in doubt as to how to deal with pruning this (or any) rose, remove only spent blooms and dead wood.
merit rating: 8.7
Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2003